tv [untitled] November 6, 2012 3:30am-4:00am PST
responsible for certainly holding the clients in compliance with their term and condition which no drug usage would be one of them, we also recognize that we have to deal with the underlying problem, just not lock people up. because that's not going to deal with the problem and not going to change the behavior. i think that's what we've learned to focus on is what can we do, what kind of intervention to create a strength-based approach to where we're providing rewards, also when someone is doing good and recognizing their progress, not just sanctioning them when in fact they relapse because relapse is a fact, and it's part and parcel to addiction recovery. >> george, let me ask you, marty raisesed the point that the reason that we need felony possibilities with drug possession offenses is that we need an incentive for people to choose treatment when they are
charged with a crime. do you agree with them [ >> i don't. i understand where marty is coming from. i think we have to make sure when we're treating this as a misdemeanor we do have a tool to ensure that people who need treatment are going to be afforded the opportunity and are going to have treatment. i also agree with tal, not necessarily everybody that uses drugs is an addict, and not necessarily everybody who uses drugs needs to have treatment. but having said that, people that we often come in contact with will be people who have a severe drug abuse problem and generally they also have a mental health issue problem, there are often housing problems, employment, many other problems, and that's the population we deal with often. and i think that figuring a way to have an intervention so that services are available for those that need it i think is really important. i don't necessarily agree a felony conviction is the vehicle to do so, but i think
we have to make sure that as we lower the sanctions here, that we do have the tools and that we have the ability to distinguish between people that have a drug addiction problem, people that are using drugs recreationally and otherwise are a functional person. >> we're going to be taking audience questions shortly, so if you have a question, just try to get the attention of someone in the aisles. ethan, let me ask you this. you know, in california, there are a number of offenses, drug possession offenses, that are punished already as misdemeanors. i think met amphetamine, p.c.p., i think valium, certain steroids, and yet we treat as felonies, the possession of cocaine and heroin as felonies. did you see this kind of discrepancy in the other states that your organization has worked to -- >> matt, if i could, i think
the perspective i could offer would be more useful in that is really putting what the u.s. is doing, california is doing in a more global perspective. because what one sees around the world is a growing number of countries that are choosing to decriminalize the possession of all drugs, when the proposals now are merging -- new jersey did this a few years ago in a small way, colombia, argentina, ecuador, guatemala, some with right wing governments, very tough on crime, and in europe, similarly. it's not generally the standards to be putting people behind bars for a possession of any drug in small amounts for one's own personal use. and perhaps the paramount example of success in this regard is portugal. portugal 11 years ago decriminalized the possession of all drugs in personal use amounts. drug selling is illegal and you can still be arrested for that.
they began doing evaluations a few years ago. you do not go to jail for possession of any drug in a small amount. and you are not drug tested. nobody gets thrown back in for dirty urines and all this sort of stuff. it's now been in place for 11 years. the research on that, and i recommend the piece in the british journal of crin knowledge and kid send it to -- cridge -- criminolgy. cases of h.i.v. and hepc and crime went down and people continued to seek treatment, that the rates of drug use in portugal did not go up at the same rates as comparable countries in europe. that suggests powerful evidence that you cannot just turn smling from a felony to a misdemeanor but eliminate the criminalization of drug possession, small amounts, without suffering negative consequences in terms of public health or public safety.
now, when marty said before about people have no incentive to go into drug treatment, you know, if i could, it reminded me of the comedian, when you said all you have is humor, a hammer and everything looks like a nail, i think the perspective for prosecutors is when all you have is a criminal sanction, everything looks like a nail. and the only way to get people into treatment is threaten them with a criminal sanction. tens of millions of people have gone to a.a. and n.a. without the criminal sanction. and when you have evidence -- i remember this, one of the first exchange programs at tacoma, washington, what they found was the needle exchange program was the principal point of source of recommendations into drug treatment. think about it. people come to a needle exchange program so they can safely use their drugs without getting an infection and spreading it to other people. there is no coercion involved. it is the most important you can have for someone who is a
known drug user what that suggests is that when people need to get help, when people are trying to get better, what they most need is to have the opportunity to find their own dignity, their own self, their own worth. having a judge or prosecutor with a hammer over your head saying you better be clear or i'm throwing you in jail. you better give me clean urines or i'm throwing you in jail. that may work for some people but that's no reason to make it a one size fits all model. in fact, huge numbers do seek out treatment whether it's 12 step or anything else, if that treatment is respectful, if it's quality, if it has evidence of success. we do not need the criminal sanction in order to get people into drug treatment. [applause] >> i find it relatively interesting that we have on the books, and it was passed by the
people of california initiative, proposition 36, which provided a means for individuals to give treatment and avoid the criminal sanction. we have practically every county around the state has both preplea or foast plea diversion programs for individuals who are charged with felony possession can complete that program and not have that conviction. and yet this overlays now under senator leno's bill, this would create a parallel system but only for misdemeanors. and i note the only sanction for an individual who refuses probation for a misdemeanor is to pay a $500 drug program fee, or if it's a second offense, he
gets charged with $1,500. but if he accepts probation, then the fee is cut down to $250 or $500 for a second or subsequent offense. now, where are these individuals? the majority of whom are involved in this trade are indigents. where is this money going to come from? there's already an escape provision for ability to pay that a judge has to consider whether or not these individuals have that ability to pay. so again, i get back to we've got these programs that allow an escape from the criminal sanction and people don't take advantage of it. maybe i am looking at the fact that with a hammer, everything out there is a nail. but i just don't see senator leno's legislation fostering
any different. now, if you're talking ultimately decriminalization, because i think this is where this is headed, then that's a different story. >> marty, let me just ask you, has your organization put together any information that would counter claims that decriminalization in this manner has been successful in these other states that have moved in that direction? >> we have not. we have not done any white papers on that issue. >> wendy, can you respond to marty's last argument? he's in effect saying if you come into the criminal justice system with a drug possession charge as a felony, you probably won't end up with a felony conviction if you're willing to seek treatment and very unlikely you would go to prison. you agree with that? >> i think it depends on which county you're in. i think san francisco is the
only county in the state that currently has a prop 36 court that is still actively working because the state has defunded all the prop 36 courts in efforts across the state. so i think this provides senator leno's bill really does the right thing and tries to move in a direction that's not contingent to how much money is available within one jurisdiction or not and actually frees up $64 million of general fund at the state level that could be reinvested into services. i know when you look at realignment, for example, here in san francisco, a 1/3 of our plan, a third of our dollars for realignment has been invested in substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and housing but we've made that choice. i think if you compare us, though, to many other jurisdictions, we have a collaborative court continuum that is unmatched in other
parts of the state. so i think to say they wood, it's not happening. and if you look at other jurisdictions throughout the state, you'll find heavy incarceration rates and not used. in fact the prosecutor is not using those programs. we're very fortunate in our district attorney. he is very visionary, and i just commend him for his stepping out there and taking this position which i support, also, in terms of we have got to focus on treatment rather than say, well, there's this program or that program when in fact the state hasn't funded it. so it's placed that burden on the local counties. >> tal, can you respond to marty's point and wendy's? >> i can say just based on my experience in dealing with individuals who have drug problems, most of the time i don't think that the threat of a quote, unquote, felony conviction is going to necessarily prevent them from
using. i think what would make more sense is to provide them with more services and to be more individualized in terms of treatment and how we address specific individuals. i also would note that when you are facing a misdemeanor charge, you're facing up to a year in county jail. now, sometimes you don't do a year in county jail because of changes that we've made to good time credits, but there is a threat potentially of incarceration that's attached to a misdemeanor conviction. so i think that's threatened us, if you're really looking for hammers and nails, why not just have a threat of a misdemeanor, period, of incarceration. the other thing i would say is that the respect trend has actually has been to implement shorter periods of flash incarceration so you actually provide an immediate sanction to address a particular problem which has had -- based on the research i've seen, greater success in changing behaviors because it's more of a cognitive behavior model and like a reward-punishment
immediate system, whereas just putting people in state prison and browsing he -- warehousing them for extended periods of time where we all know going to prison doesn't mean you have access to illegal nhra catics, that doesn't seem either to necessarily be a solution. -- illegal narcotics that that doesn't seem either to be necessarily a solution. >> i promised to marty we'd be careful to give him equal time here. >> that's all right. that's all right. i already feel the glow of san francisco's progressive approach to things. and in defense to the other counties, i think that, you know, that's the challenge we always face with legislation, should one size fit all? and i think that the whole purpose of the realignment
approach was to allow individual counties to experiment with programs in dealing with individuals who are charged with crimes, either providing treatment a little bit more treatment model, and a locally based model because those individuals are from those specific communities. and i think those communities need to have the flexibility to be able to develop those local solutions. obviously, san francisco is blessed with a probation chief and she told me earlier that certain people are supervised by probation and is not the general rule throughout california. i think los angeles, where i'm from, there was no supervision for misdemeanors by the
probation department. those individuals were on court summary probation which meant go home and sin no more. and if you do, you'll be back here to see us. and so, i think that once again, i go back to the fact that under the current system, because we have so many of those individuals who were once incarcerated at the state level, being pushed down to the counties, there's no room at the end in terms of the county jails. so misdemeanors aren't going to be sentenced to county jail but will be sentenced in community service or whatever. and for those individuals who do need some measure of control and supervision to deal about -- deal with their conviction problems, it's not going to happen at the misdemeanor
level. >> let me go to a couple of the questions from the audience. i've shared them with our district attorney. george, two questions there, one related to whether or not drug possession should be treated differently for adults than from juveniles. and then a question about back on track, whether or not that program would be positively or adversely affected by senator leno's proposal. >> yes, let me start with the first question concerning juveniles. i think juveniles definitely need to be treated differently, and certainly here in san francisco, we do. we very seldom -- in fact, i know for a fact we've not criminalized simple possession drugs. there's a lot of other vehicles we use to deal with juveniles before it ever gets to a prosecution for possession of drugs. and i think that there's some good reasons for that. i think that when we're talking about juveniles, we should
explore every possibility that we can to decriminalize juvenile behavior in order to provide them with an opportunity to correct their behavior and move on so they can get education and get employment and they can become a productive member of society. and generally the juveniles, again, that we deal with are not any different than the adults we deal with. these are juveniles that often come from homes where supervision of the home is either not there or is very lacking. there's really a significant lack of role model support so there are a lot of problems already. the juveniles that generally come to our attention already bring with themselves. the problem is there's still not enough funding, there is not enough vehicles to provide the services that are necessary, so that is a challenge for us, and unfortunately, often the drug
use, drug abuse and those other things do lead to serious crimes when they in fact do become involved in a different part of the process. the other question has to do with back and track. i don't see 1506 impacting negatively on back on track. in fact, the conversations in our office are today around how do we expand the program and back on track is a successful program and we've used a very small population. for those of you who are not familiar with back on track, it started where a first offense, possession of drugs for sales, the individual agreed to go through a process of training that included a partnership with goodwill industries and other partners, individuals were put through the program, they receive training in a variety of areas, and they were put on the track to get gainful employment, and when they
graduate from the program, their criminal record is expunged. there is a fair entry of judgment. we are now trying to explore, how do we take back on track and continue to move the envelope so that we include other offenses and other people, we believe it is a very successful program and quite frankly is a model i hope to expand. >> we've got a video message from senator leno we were going to play. is that right? is it ready to go? here we go. >> welcome, everyone, to the 2012 justice summit, i'm mark leno and so wish key be with you today but i'm attending to my legislative duties in sacramento. council, i thank you for your interest in criminal justice and all your energies and efforts on its behalf. we know this is an issue that is of great importance to the state of california and to the nation. of course we have the opportunity to yet again lead the way here in california.
we're offering a bill this year, s.b.-1506 which would redefine the crime of simple possession of a drug from felony to misdemeanor. there are 13 other states, and the federal government which already do this and in the 13 other states, we have the data that shows that we get better results, better outcomes, meaning safer communities, and surprisingly the states include not only the large eastern states of pennsylvania and new york, but also states like mississippi, south carolina, west virginia, wyoming, iowa, all of which use this mid deem charge rather than felony. and what we find in these 13 other states is that there are higher rates of drug treatment participation, lower rates of drug use, and even slightly lower rates of violent and property crime. so again, we can prove we can have safer communities. and then of course there are
the unintended consequences of a felony conviction. consequences that really can cause great damage to a young life for many decades out. the very three things that can keep someone successfully in his or her recovery, access to housing, education and employment are put farther out of reach because of a felony conviction, especially in a down economy, someone with a felony has great difficulty even accessing 5 a job that pays minimum wage. putting these felony convictions to a whole population of young people, we really perpetuate a chronic underclass which benefits none of us. and then of course there's the inequity in the criminal justice system. even though we can show that drug use rates are quite similar in all different ethnic communities and african-americans are 13 times
greater likelihood of being convicted of a felony of simple possession. then of course there's also the savings that we could experience, nonpartisan, independent legislative analyst office has determined that there would be $159 million annually of savings at the county level, plus another $65 million annually in savings at the state level. and our bill would direct a portion of that savings to drug treatment programs so that we can, like these 13 other states, have better outcomes, safer communities. i of course have to thank the sponsors of our bill, and we have a number of them, the h.l.u. which has been a champion and the drug policy alliance as well as the naacp. i also want to thank san francisco's district attorney george gascon who is at our
public hearing at the safety committee a couple weeks back. george was there to speak on behalf of the bill we were working on together but he proactively came for this bill, s.b. 1506, to say that he's been law enforcement for 30 years and bring back 30-year experience to this consideration of this bill, and he said this bill makes sense because drug treatment works and this is in spite of the fact we'll be battling the district attorneys along with many other arms of public safety. [laughter] >> we've got the data, we've got the facts and we know this will provide great benefit to our communities, to our neighborhoods, and to all of california. thank you for your support. [applause] >> tal, i want to go back to the question that marty posed
earlier, which is in effect this idea that in order to incentivize people making the decision to seek treatment that the fear of a felony conviction or possible state prison sentence could play a positive role. you talk to a lot of people charged with crimes who are trying to make the decision of what decision to make, what is the primary motivation you see coming from them. how do they decision make on dispositions related to drug possession as a felony? >> i think that for a lot of people it does have to be a personal decision and they have to come to it themselves. i don't think they necessarily are thinking about whether whether or not they'd be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. i will also say that sometimes you'll meet someone in county jail and they're ready to get treatment, they're ready to get help and because of the lack of
resources, they have to sit in county jail and wait for a bed to open up or wait for there to be an opportunity for them to access treatment. and one of the things that this bill would do ideally would be to divert some of those resources that go into enforcement and put them into treatment outlets for people. so perhaps there wouldn't be that weight people have while they're incarcerated where they can lose hope or kind of slip back into their old ways of thinking. but from my experience, the longer someone is incarcerated, kind of the less incentive they have and the people who have been in and out of prison, it's almost like they've given up hope a long time ago, so if we can change that, if we can instill hope in people and if we can have access to treatment in a shorter time frame so there really can be treatment on demand, then i think you'll see different outcomes.
but then just warehousing people for extended periods of time based on my experience when i've met people, it doesn't seem to provide them with any more incentive to get treatment when they get out. they just come out institutionalized and worse off. >> ethan, i wanted to ask you, in the other states that you've seen valid measures go before the voters, were there particular arguments that were more compelling for others that you find anything really caught the public's support or imagination? >> well, you know, it's interesting. my organization drafted, put on the ballot proposition 36 back in 2000, and that included at the time doubling state funding for drug treatment by $120 million a year. we made the mistake of only putting it in there five years and eventually the lending was cut and saved taxpayers a huge amount of money, what we saw when we polled other states around the country on prop 36
-- because there are prop 36, because it prohibited incarceration the first two times somebody was arrested for possession if they did not have a criminal record, it was in fact a fairly substantial decriminalization statute in its own right. what we found was that even in southern states, florida, significant majorities, over 60%, believe that people who had an addiction should not be sent to jail the first or second time, jail or prison the first or second time that they were picked up on drug possession. so you saw that as sort of a moral notion and you also see the cost-savings argument. when people -- i could critically say, look, most drug treatment does not work most of the time for most of the people who pursue it. that said, dollar for dollar, person for person, drug treatment is a dramatically better investment than incarceration, right? you think about it. treatment is like quitting cigarettes, right?
people need multiple times and you don't know until you're on your deathbed. cigarettes are more addictive than other drugs and takes time. but i think people responded to some extent on a moral basis that it's just not right to put people behind bars for that and secondly on the cost savings piece. the third one was the utilization of law enforcement resources. we see that with marijuana and other drugs and by in large they say let the cops focus on real crime, predator crimes, violent crimes, not prioritize the simple ones. [applause] >> i want to give everyone on the panel one last chance to make any closing remarks. >> realignment was a good sign public sentiment has changed. the polls out there, the public wants accountability but sensible accountability, and i think 1506 gives us that. and i think the comment was
made in each of the economies but in fact what we found, when you have realignment, all 58 counties deciding what to do, if we just look at the incarceration rates across each of the counties, fresno, like county, population demographics to san francisco. and it's a law that impacts on a statewide basis is more sensible than leaving it up to each county because then you'll end up with 58 different styles and methods of criminal justice. >> tal? >> i'm the public defender and it's my job to push the envelope. it's one thing to talk about reducing possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors but i'm not sure that's going to change